By Tim Mann
Washington State Legislative Session: With 25 chapters and 35,000 members, Audubon Washington is well positioned to rally support for legislation and agency action relevant to its conservation mission. Last month’s Skagit Flyer deadline preceded the legislature’s April 28th finish, so here’s a look at the outcome for bills especially important to Audubon. Happily, as Audubon Washington’s Government Relations Director Adam Maxwell said, this was the best Washington State legislative session ever for climate legislation. Nine related bills passed including Audubon’s top priority, the 100% clean energy standard. Under this bill’s provisions, in a series of steps all fossil-fuel produced electricity used in Washington will be phased out by 2045. All but 20% of our state’s electricity is already fossil-free, and we now join the small group of states that have taken this important step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Also passed were bills improving the efficiency of new buildings and appliances. Failing to pass but with a chance next year was reduction of emissions related to transportation. That sector accounts for over 40% of greenhouse gases here. Though the partial ban on single-use plastic bags did not pass, the prognosis is fairly good for next session.
Among state agencies the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is the lead for recovering rare, threatened, and endangered species and managing thousands of acres of wildlife habitat. This agency has experienced cuts from declining sales of hunting and fishing licenses, the mainstay of its budget revenue. Supporting full funding of WDFW’s budget request was another session priority for Audubon. The smaller increase the agency received will only slow the decline in staff and services. Audubon Washington participates in the state-appointed committee, to devise a more sustainable funding strategy for WDFW and other agencies with conservation missions.
You’ll recall the all-out effort last year to come up with a plan for ensuring the survival of the Southern Resident Killer Whales. Task force recommendations boiled down to four bills, all of which passed the legislature in some form, along with a substantial percentage of the Governor’s funding request for implementation. Taken together, these bills cover key aspects of what is needed to restore Puget Sound, the U.S. portion of the Salish Sea, ranging from reducing toxic pollution to speeding salmon recovery and better protecting against oil spills. This is all good for marine birds too, so many of which winter here and depend on the same food chain that ultimately feeds orcas.
Skagit Audubon sent a second comment letter to Skagit County Planning & Development Services on the proposed quarry near Marblemount. This large operation, with potential duration of a century, would yield dense stone for repairing large jetties at the mouth of the Columbia River and elsewhere. Not mentioned in the project application and reports is the possibility that the rock, Shuksan greenschist, contains the asbestos mineral actinolike, raising the question of health effects to people and wildlife from the generated dust. Audubon’s comments raise this and other issues and join many individuals and organizations in calling for a thorough environmental impact statement on the proposed project.
Skagit Audubon also joined many other groups signing a letter to British Columbia’s
Ministry of Energy, Mines & Petroleum Resources expressing concern over a potential large copper and gold mine near the Skagit River’s headwaters. If developed, this mining claim surrounded by Manning and Skagit Valley Provincial Parks could easily send toxic pollution down the Skagit. Read more about this and other issues on the Skagit Audubon website: https://skagitaudubon.org/conservation/notes.